If you ever sit there wondering why someone won’t reply to a text you just sent, you’re not alone. According to a new paper from researchers at Google, impatience is a universal condition now. According to their study messaging etiquette says waiting more than 20 minutes to respond can be seen as rude.
While studying complaints about smartphone notifications being distracting, Google researchers Julie Aranda and Safia Baig shadowed 19 people, aged between 18 and 65 and from a variety of countries, to study how they interacted with their phones. They also conducted interviews and drew on earlier research involving 112 other participants.
In some ways, the results were not surprising. People tend to have ambivalent feelings about their phones, finding them engaging and even addictive but also placing constant demands on their attention. But the anxieties and stresses caused by some phone interactions appear to be universal. Messaging was one area of acute tension, particularly with the new expectations texts place on how friends and families communicate.
“All users described the tension between sending and receiving messages,” the paper said. “After sending a message, the sender experiences increasing anxiety while waiting for a response; a late response can feel like a snub or an indicator of your importance to the receiver.”
Such anxieties don’t take long to surface. “On the receiving end of a message, receivers felt pressure to respond immediately or within a reasonable amount of time, typically between 20 minutes to the end of that day, to avoid breaking etiquette and offending the sender,” the paper concluded.
Google, which presented the paper at a conference devoted to human-computer interaction, hopes the results will help it design a phone interface that’s less stressful and demanding. Until then, you have 20 minutes to respond to the messages popping up on your screen, before people start thinking you’re a jerk.